Pop quiz: can anyone name three explorers living today?

Explorers of times gone by come easily to mind: Captain Cook and Sir Walter Raleigh, Amerigo Vespucci and Hernan Cortez...

Many people believe that, with the world’s every crevice already mapped and indeed the very topography of our earth available through satellite imagery for anyone to call up, what is the point of learning geography these days?

It must be a dead science, they say; one that only musty academics care about!

Why train as a cartographer when GPS navigation systems negate the need for any maps and Google can tell us any country’s capital?

Those naysayers have it all wrong: studies in geography are more vital today than ever!

Sure, we know about continents, countries and their capital cities but how can we assess our earth’s changes over time if nobody keeps them under observation?

What? Continents change?

Such incredulity is startlingly frequent and profoundly dismaying.

That is why your Superprof sets out to dispel outdated thinking about the far-reaching discipline we call geography.

Today, we put you on the path to discovery: of our world and social systems, of future careers you may embrace and of how best to slake the thirst for geographical knowledge you didn’t know you had.

What Reasons Are There to Study GCSE Geography?

one good reason to study geography is globalisation
Globalization is an excellent reason to study geography! Source: Pixabay Credit Geralt

It is quite alarming that geography is not a part of our schools’ Key Stage 4 curriculum anymore; the same could be said for other countries.

As expansive as our teachings are in geography during our early years in school, it is dismaying that such learning does not continue through our last years in secondary.

Our last Key Stage is our jumping point into our GCSEs and, by extension, post-secondary learning and our future careers.

It is not atypical for a young scholar to change their mind – seemingly as the wind blows.

So, while pre-teens may show enthusiasm for pursuing studies in geography, that passion could fade with exposure to new areas of study, especially if their desire to know more about human geography and physical geography is not fed.

It is also at that age that students come to realise, perhaps through a combination of social programs and independent dawning awareness, of their role and responsibilities in conservation.

And then, just as they develop the intellectual capacity to embrace and explore their physical environment and its environmental problems, their formal education in the subject stops!

Indeed this is a grim scenario; now we take it one step further.

Picture the wealth of jobs currently filled by people with a geography degree: climatologists and oceanographers, geographic information systems specialists and those trained in urban geography.

With fewer students making geography their vocation, who will fill those positions in the future?

Another reason to extend world regional geography education throughout secondary school is to understand how random events impact different areas of the world.

Fortunately, we are not forced to endure cataclysmic weather or dramatic natural disasters such as the recent Mount Etna eruption, but such phenomena affect us and the rest of the world in many ways, not the least being the global economy.

This is not a plea to revamp public schools’ teaching agenda but a discourse on why our secondary school students should endeavour to continue their geographic and environmental studies, ultimately selecting geography as one of their GCSE subjects.

Perhaps they could keep their interest in geography alive with a tutor...

As a geography major, you may choose to specialise in urban geography
Studying and cataloguing our urban landscape is a program of study for future geographers Source: Pixabay Credit: Free-Photos

Study Geography with a Tutor

Less than a century ago, a typical geography course consisted of learning continents, countries and capitals; major mountain ranges and bodies of water. Students were tested on that knowledge by locating them on a map and... not much else.

Of course, back then, rote memorisation was the preferred teaching methodology; little opportunity was given in the classroom for students to explore concepts that fascinated them.

That is why their parents hired tutors!

Geography is the mother of all sciences, comprised of such diverse branches as:

  • environmental geography: studies the relationship between people and their environments

  • economic geography: the distribution and spatial organisation of economic activity around the world

  • climatology: the study of climate and its effect on the world

  • cultural geography: the study of cultural standards and artefacts in relation to the spaces those cultures occupy

  • social geography: the relationship between social phenomena and the environment in which they occur

  • urban studies: the study of life in an urban environment

  • biogeography is the study of biological communities within their ecosystems

  • applied geography: the relationship between humans and the natural environment

It is clear to see from this abbreviated list of sub-specialities that a geography tutor is not a one size fits all proposition!

So, as you shop about for a tutor, you should take several key points into consideration.

1. Is your prospective tutor familiar with the geography portion of your upcoming GCSE exam?

As you well know, these exams often change their content so it would be best to assure yourself that any tutor you might work with will know everything about the most current edition of your exam.

Of course, the same holds true if you are preparing for your A-Levels in Geography or even if you are an undergraduate cramming for semester exams!

2. Is this tutor you’re interviewing prepared to meet with you only once a week or maybe several times per week as your test date draws nearer?

It would do you no good to have a geography tutor who is not available when you need him, no matter how knowledgeable s/he is!

3. How and where will your tutor give lessons? Are you comfortable with online tutoring?

These days, it is quite common for tutors to give lessons via webcam and you may even get away with paying a lower price for quality tutelage!

Conversely, if you opt for an in-home tutor, your rates may be a bit higher to account for the tutor’s travelling expenses and time spent on the road.

4. Would you work with someone from a tutoring agency?

In this case, your rates might be slightly higher because the company has to use a portion of the fees you pay them to cover their office’s overhead. However, the upside to engaging such a tutor is that you know they are fully qualified to teach and most likely have plenty of experience.

The takeaway here is that even though geography is not taught in the last two years of your secondary education and what is taught in schools is the run-up to your school leaving examination, it is still possible to acquire knowledge about earth systems and principles of sustainability during that time.

Let your tutor serve up the geography knowledge you need!
A geography tutor may serve up nuggets of knowledge every geography major needs! Source: Pixabay Credit: Geralt

Geography Courses Online

As you kick around solutions to your ongoing geography learning dilemma, you might be relieved to know that there are online resources to help you keep the knowledge you’ve already gained fresh.

There are outlets to help you build on it, too!

Consider MOOCs: massive online open courses. They generally comprise of about six weeks of learning; however, you may go through each class as quickly as you’d like.

In signing up for any MOOC, you would be expected to devote about three hours per week to those studies – an exceedingly reasonable guideline! Of course, you may spend as much time as you’d like reviewing this material that so fascinates you.

MOOCs generally have no prerequisites, meaning you don’t have to have already taken other courses in preparation for these. And, even though they are mostly sponsored by universities and research institutes, you do not have to be an undergraduate to participate.

There are several open online courses that pertain to geography. Some deal with the physical features of lands and oceans while others delve into urban development and still others discuss climate change.

If you are looking for review materials, you may find Quizlet geography helpful.

Quizlet is a learning utility that incorporates flashcards, quizzes and games to give a rounded review experience.

You should be aware that Quizlet is mostly tailored to American AP human geography (AP stands for advanced placement; approximately equal to our A-Levels study guidelines).

Still, there is some use to be had for us; we can always test ourselves on geography terms and play games!

The basic use of Quizlet is free; however, some learning sets offer materials for sale.

One of the greatest advantages to learning geography is improved spatial analysis: where you are in relation to your environment.

Essentially, what that means is that inside your head is a 3D map where you visualise your movements, much as a GPS would display them, albeit two-dimensionally.

As you move about your urban landscape (or, if you are in the countryside, roam the hills), perhaps you wouldn’t mind listening to a few geography podcasts?

All of these resources are free and their usefulness is contingent on your diligence in studying independently.

If you (figuratively) need someone to hold your feet to the fire to advance in your studies, you may resort to an online tutor, as mentioned above.

However, to the best of our knowledge, very few tutors work for free... except for Superprof tutors – at least, for their first hour of working with you.

Indeed it is true that most Superprof tutors offer their first hour at no charge so that you two can get to know one another and find out if your learning goals are in line with his/her knowledge stores.

To find out if this is the right solution for you, read more about the cost of in-home tutoring and online tutoring for geography.

Discover sunken treasure with your geography degree!
Believe it or not, a geography degree will put you on the path to discovering sunken treasure! Source: Pixabay Credit: Arhnue

What Can a Degree in Geography Do for You?

Before we start this segment, let us answer the question at the start of this article; the one about three explorers living today.

  1. Bear Grylls, adventurer and Scout leader who keeps pushing his boundaries, often for charity

  2. Ranulph Fiennes is the Guinness Book of Records’ greatest living explorer (1984); he’s not done yet!

  3. Robert Ballard, the discoverer of the Titanic and other shipwrecks, is a leader in ocean exploration.

Here are a few other amazing explorers you should know about!

Now let’s see what type of exploration a geography degree can lead you to.

If you are conscious of environmental change and are driven to find sustainable solutions to some of the most challenging issues facing humanity today, becoming a geographer is the best place to start.

As an undergraduate student, your coursework would consist of introductory material in this humanities discipline: geospatial analysis, urban and cultural geography, the study of ecosystems and geopolitics.

You may also work on a research project; doing fieldwork and analyzing your finds.

From there, you could decide to specialise as a graduate student, focusing on either physical or human geography.

Consider the adventure this education will provide! Even better: consider what this education will prepare you for...

You will be qualified to place yourself at the forefront of every effort to preserve earth’s resources for generations to come.

You will be the one to forge new ground in natural resource conservation and urbanization. Conversely, if oceanography is your passion, you might be one of the first explorers of the Mariana Trench!

Provided there are submarines built to withstand extreme pressure by the time you graduate.

Or perhaps you could help unlock the mystery of entire pods of whales beaching themselves in New Zealand...

Many students wonder what they could do with a degree in geography, but that is only because of the common perception that there is nothing new to explore, discover or learn from our earth and its biodiversity, or from climatic phenomenon.

How terribly jaded that makes us all sound!

Go ahead: prove us all wrong. Discover your own reasons to study geography.

Need a Geography teacher?

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A vagabond traveler whose first love is the written word, I advocate for continuous learning, cycling, and the joy only a beloved pet can bring. There is plenty else I am passionate about, but those three should do it, for now.